It’s been a few days and Machetera’s Israeli/Colombian fan club is surely hungry for some news. This article was written by Jose Steinsleger for La Jornada. Bon appetit.
Following the “crossfire” that took the lives of 11 captives of Colombia’s Armed Revolutionary Forces (FARC) last July, Commandante Raúl Reyes warned that U.S., English and Israeli mercenaries were positioned throughout the Amazonian jungle, looking to “terminate” one of the FARC leaders.
Prophecy accomplished. On March 1, the FARC spokesman and negotiator and other guerrillas were killed by the army while they slept in their camp, located in the Ecuadoran province of Sucumbios, bordering Colombia. The counter-insurgent operation caught the attention of military experts.
As expected, Washington justified and defended the military operation ordered by President Álvaro Uribe, its faithful and only ally in South America. Nevertheless, perhaps in a less visible way, someone else was also rejoicing: General Israel Ziv, the former commander of a regiment in Gaza and the highest ranking Israeli official to handle personnel training for the Colombian government.
The nexus between Israel and Colombia dates back to the first half of the 1980’s, when a contingent of soldiers from the Colombian Batallion, “…one of the worst violators of human rights in the Western hemisphere, received training in the Sinai desert by one of the worst violators of human rights in the Middle East,” according to the U.S. investigative journalist Jeremy Bigwood.
An expert in using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain censored documents from the United States, Bigwood observes that the training of Colombian youth as paras (paramilitaries) could not have been done without the express permission of the highest authorities in Israel’s Defense Force.
In this case, during those years, the large property owners in the Caribbean region of Urabá and Magdalena Medio (Uribe was one) were unhappy with the do-nothing army (read: state of law) in its struggle against the FARC guerrillas and the National Liberation Army (ELN). Therefore, in 1983, a group of young “idealists” in this class traveled to Israel, and not exactly to study on a kibbutz.
Hailing from a landowning family, Carlos Castaño was 18 years old. A year and a half later, pumped up with “patriotic fervor” he returned to Colombia and tried to apply what he’d learned in Course 562 given by the Israeli Defense (sic) Force. He returned to the Bombona Batallion but was disapppointed, concluding that the army wasn’t “serious” about killing.
Together with his older brother (Fidel), Carlos organized a death squad called Los Tangueros, taking the name from their ranch, Las Tangas. In My Confession he declared: “In fact, the concept of “self-defense” was copied from the Israelis.” A concept that rapidly became blurred under the paras in different regions whose interests were tied with those of the mafia drug traffickers. Something that bothered U.S. Drug Enforcement (DEA) agents.
Boom! An explosive article (a series of interviews done by the Spanish journalist Mauricio Aranguren Molina) was published, in which Castaño expounded on what normally distinguishes a “military man” from a “paramilitary”. In My Confession he left no doubt that, in theory, an institutional army conforms to a “violence monopoly” conferred by the State. In exchange, paramilitaries kill with the support of the market’s “invisible hand,” which governs the legal restrictions of the bourgeois State.
The “paramilitary” modality can count on certain advantages: politicians, intellectuals, the media, and “serious analysts” can wring their hands over the “extremes of one kind or another.” But in his testimony, Castaño emphasized the relationship cultivated in Course 562 with the Alfonso Martínez Poveda Army, and “other men of the Colombia Batallion.”
The serial killer had plenty to say about “Zionism’s firmness…which has always been used to defend itself, invade and capture territory…From there, I returned convinced that it is possible to topple Colombia’s guerrillas.” Castaño died in 2004 and recent history remembers him for what he was: one of Colombia’s bloodiest paramilitary members.
However, Castaño was not alone in his training in Israel. Salvatore Mancuso, another “historical leader” of United Colombian Self-Defense (AUC, 1997), was there as well, although he is presently in prison. In the middle of the 1990’s, Mancuso organized the paramilitaries of the “Harmonious Cooperative,” financed by Álvaro Uribe Vélez, who was at that time the governor of Antioquia.
In an interview with the correspondent Margarita Martínez from Associated Press (Feb. 13, 2002) the paramilitary leader bragged that “we never execute more than three people at the same time.” Presently he’s doing time in prison, where he has a website to explain “western democracy” to the world.